Bookouture | 2017 (25 April – ebook: 28 April) | 387p | Review copy | Buy the book
A routine training excavation for forensic archaeologists comes to an abrupt halt when shovels uncover the disarticulated remains of two, possibly three skeletons. Back in the lab, the bones reveal evidence of terrible deaths – bullet wounds, hunting traps and something perhaps even worse. DI Kim Stone is given the case but it’s going to become very complicated. The farm where the excavation took place straddles the border with the West Mercian police and Stone is forced to co-lead the investigation with her counterpart, DI Tom Travis. These two have a history and it is not a pleasant one. Working together will not be easy.
To make matters worse, Kim has to work with Travis’s team while her own continues to work on a series of hate crimes as well as a teenage suicide. The latter affects DC Stacey Wood greatly and it will lead her to make decisions she may live to regret. Kim Stone feels responsible for her team, frustrated that she is working apart from them, but her own case, finding justice for the dead souls roughly buried, has Kim, as well as Travis, caught in its grip – and me on the edge of my seat.
Dead Souls is the sixth novel by Angela Marsons to feature DI Kim Stone and, for reasons I am unable to fathom, it is my first. I don’t know how I’ve missed this series but it’s certainly been a mistake. Angela Marsons is clearly a storyteller of the highest order, driving on this brilliantly plotted crime novel with the most fascinating, well-drawn characters supported by pace, unrelenting tension and a compelling mystery that makes the pages fly by. It’s probably true that if I’d read the earlier novels first I’d have had a better understanding of some of the relationships, especially between Stone and her sergeants Bryant and Dawson, as well as Kim Stone’s back history. But, to be honest, I felt caught up in the personalities and relationships instantly and I didn’t feel like I was missing out. But one thing is for sure: I’ll be buying up the previous five novels just as soon as I can.
I loved Kim Stone. It’s hard to imagine anyone caring more than this woman. But she also has a warmth to her, a real kindness. As does Bryant, whose sense of justice displays itself in the most generous of ways. Bryant and Dawson spar without her leadership but both are able to use the opportunity to prove themselves. Stacey Wood’s history plays an important role in Dead Souls and contributes to the novel’s themes of hatred and bigotry. These are undoubtedly painful themes but the author deals with them effectively and powerfully. One standout character for me is Tom Travis. It could have been so straightforward to present him as a baddie. But there is nothing straightforward about him and I really enjoyed his scenes with Stone.
The plot of Dead Souls is absolutely fantastic and left me in awe of it. I had to know what was happening. I was constantly surprised by the ways in which the novel developed and its conclusion was brilliant. We care for the characters deeply and so we worry. I certainly did. Kim Stones’ bravery made me worry even more. There is so much going on, so many people to watch, that I gobbled Dead Souls up. I am so pleased that I picked this one up and I’m very glad that I didn’t let myself be put off by it being the sixth in a series and not the first. I have discovered another author and another series to catch up on, follow and love – excellent!